Monday, May 29, 2017

An Open Heart

Saturday concluded my "free to do anything" 5k racing streak with my third 5k in three weeks. Whether fully prepared and focused, or laid-back and lackadaisical, in everything I do, I always seem to find a lesson; the conversation will the God is ongoing, unrelenting, and one I can't shut off. This is why it's so important to get up and do things in life, whatever those things may be, and to always keep our hearts open; God is truly ubiquitous.

My streak started three weeks ago in Westlake at the Hyland 5k, an eye-opening confidence booster of the gift I have by which I tend to overlook, while also serving as a gentle reminder to be cognizant of my gut feelings and to have faith in betting on "those" butterflies. After the race, with just a few weeks left before my trip, I decided to continue to hold off on any official training. My plan was to do a few 5 mile runs each week, with at least 2 with fast finishes, and to let the 5k races serve as both my speed work and long run, as I usually end up running a little over 8 miles with my warm-up and cool-down before and after the race.

Feeling confident and eager, the following week I ran a 5k in Northfield for St. Barnabas' School. Although I was hoping to run the 5k in the CLE Marathon, logistics were not aligned well for me for CLE, so the sweet, small, close in proximity Northfield 5k was to be my race. And my race it was! The course started with a straight-away mile of beautiful rolling hills, which helped me stretch out my legs and get good turn-over in 6:00, the exact time I crossed through mile 1 the week prior. After a hair-pin turn around, I lost my momentum a bit and the rolling hills caught my speed on the way back, but with some sweet kids I was trying to pull through for strong finishes, it was a fun challenge and not too painful. I crossed through the finish in 20:19, feeling "ehhhhhhh you can do better," but was nevertheless pleased with a comfortable, enjoyable race experience. I finished first female, and was fortunate to collect some pretty amazing, very generous prizes! I ended the day with my family celebrating my beautiful Goddaughter's 2nd birthday. We concluded her celebration at the beautiful lake, where the kids playfully ran around and the adults quietly gazed at the water; God's presence couldn't have been more tangible.

Fun celebrating birthday #2 for my beautiful Goddaughter, Evelyn. :-)
This is CLE. Home. <3
Knowing that this weekend would be my last racing opportunity for a while, I decided to run the Bay 5k in Bay Village on Saturday. Although I was beyond physically exhausted from the week and pretty sore in my back, quads, and feet, most likely from wearing  4" heels Thursday night and going to bed WAY past my bedtime, LOL, regardless of what I had in me, I wanted to do it...just cuz I can! My body was very heavy when the alarm went off at 6:00am, and I considered just staying put, but my will took over and I peeled myself out of bed. I ate a quick breakfast, got dressed, and was out the door shortly after 7:00am and on my way to Bay! While doing my 2 mile warm-up around the course, my legs felt heavy and my back was hurting, but the pain soon subsided upon running into some super sweet running buddies of mine who reminded me of my favorite part of this sport: the people. After chatting and catching up, they enthusiastically invited me to join them in the Boston Marathon next spring, which I may be taking them up on if other life plans of mine do not go through. Their kindness, warmth, and positive energy were exactly what I needed to forget the pain, and to make the race enjoyable no matter the outcome.

When the gun went off, I immediately knew I was in trouble; my legs had that "dead weight" feeling to them that I've experienced many times before, in particular a few weeks prior at the Tow Path ½ Marathon. Accordingly, I listened to my body and backed off the pedal in mile 1, letting another speedy chica who looked smooth and strong take the lead. I crossed through the mile in 6:10, and from the point forward I shut down completely. I felt exhausted, unmotivated to push, terribly sick to my stomach...and really just wanted to stop. But, in true-to-MP fashion, I hung in there, looking like a fool I'm sure, as people passed me one-by-one. At one point, a very sweet old man tucked in by my side, saw my struggle, and kindly tried getting me to push. He didn't say, "Cmon, you've got more than that!" but rather, "It's alright, keep going!" He must be a coach, and I'm sure a really, really, really good Dad/Grandpa; it was just what I needed. Eventually, my running buddy caught me; it was almost deja vu from the Tow Path 1/2 a few weeks ago (and her name happens to be Jen, too!). She was having a great race, breezed past me, and took 2nd overall female. Deflated by my performance and totally spent, I finished behind her in 3rd in 20:20. It was a beautiful day and a flat-fast course; it simply wasn't my day. But after a 3 mile cool-down, I got to spend extra time with my sweet running buddies in the beautiful sunshine and collected another great, generous race prize. My mood was lifted and I finished feeling that although it was a tough race nor the one I had hoped for, thanks to the good company and a gorgeous day, it most certainly was a good one!

Knowing it will be a while before I can race again, I thought about running one more 5k this morning...just cuz I can! But when the alarm went off at 6:00am, my body felt even heavier than it did Saturday...and so this time I listened! I have just a few days before my travel begins, and I need to be well-rested, and most certainly not sore. I headed to Tow Path for the first time since being hit by the biker in April (aka, God screaming at me to STOP! LOL), and enjoyed five cozy, sunshiny miles.

So, what did I learn from my 5k race streak? As I said before, it helped me see what I can do that I often take for granted: RUN! Despite my best efforts, I tend to be so fixated on achieving a time goal that I overlook how gifted I am simply to be able to do what I do. With that said, just as not training helped me let go and just run, it also, on the contrary, helped me see the importance of training; it is through the long run that you build the stamina to keep going when you want to quit, and it is through speed work that you build the muscle and cardiovascular strength to go hard and fast despite the pain. More simply put, racing without training is like taking a test with studying; you might do okay, but that extra work is necessary for going beyond your potential, getting the best out of yourself, and truly mastering the task at hand. Even if training doesn't set you up for a PR, which in many cases it doesn't, particularly when you become a more seasoned runner, it is does help you to do your best in that moment. When you’ve given your training 110%, you can walk away from any race confident that even if you bonk, you were prepared to give it everything you could. And that is all I believe God asks of us: to give what we do our very best, and to enjoy and share the gifts He's given us with others.

In my most recent read, Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait, Fr. Leo Maasburg speaks of her saying, "She once said that even God cannot fill something that is already full. By this she meant that if we are full of self, of vanity and our own selfish goals, if we think we can do everything by ourselves, God cannot work with us; He cannot use us. But when we accept our "nothingness" and turn to Him with loving trust, then He can use us; He can fill us with His love and do "great things" with us." In a world fixated on pride, external imagery, and statistics and numbers derived from achievements and accolades, this can be REALLY hard, but we can learn from the example of St. Teresa and at least try to live beyond those things that inadvertently hold us back from true greatness. If we put God first, remain faithful, take risks with humility, and do what we do with love, "great things" are very possible, indeed. We just need to be sure to always keep our hearts open, no matter the circumstances, knowing He's always with us, unrelentingly, along the way everywhere, in everything, and in everyone. :-)

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day in light of all those who've sacrificed everything for our freedom. I am so very, very grateful to be an American; God Bless America, my home sweet home!


Saturday, May 13, 2017

She is Beautiful

This is one of my favorite pictures of my beautiful Mom with her beautiful baby brother, my Uncle Michael, of whom she cared for and loved as if he were her son. During her high school years, my Mom took on the role as full-time Mommy to help my beautiful Grandmother Scully while she was hospitalized for breast cancer treatment. She was only a teenager, but assumed the role with no hesitation and complete self-sacrifice and humility; she never told anyone of her difficult circumstances and immense responsibilities, not even her teachers. It wasn't until my Uncle Michael's kindergartner teacher read a note written by his sweet, thoughtful big sister concerning his many special needs that her secret was revealed. She was, and is, one of the most loving, warm, unapologetically genuine, and caring people most will ever meet; she is deeply loved and "Mom" to so many, more than just the six children of whom are so blessed to call her their Mommy. I don't know how I got so blessed, but I do know with certainty that all of who I am and all I ever will be is because of her. For her unconditional love, beautiful heart, deep wisdom, and example of giving of oneself through Motherhood to all, I am eternally grateful.  I love you so much, Mom. I wish you knew how very beautiful you are. 🙂

"She was beautiful, but not like those girls in magazines. She was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful for her ability to make other people smile even when she was sad. No, she wasn't beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful."- F. Scott Fitzgerald 💜

Bet on Butterflies

After 4 weeks of no running and MRI confirmation that my ankle swelling was NOT a stress fracture but rather a chronic sprain, my orthopedic doc gave me the green light to ease back into running, using the swelling and any pain as my guide. Grateful, excited, but never the less cautious, I started running again this week. I definitely felt the weight of the time off in my first few runs, but by Wednesday I was feeling shockingly comfortable, as if perhaps all had not been totally thrown away in these past few weeks on the sideline. Logic and prayer have been my guide and I haven't felt particularly sad or disappointed to miss my chance at the CLE Marathon this spring, but I have to admit that there is definitely a profound anticlimactic feeling when you have to cut your training short, for whatever the reason may be, without any opportunity to truly execute all the weeks of effort and hard work.

Although fully aware that any attempt at a PR would be foolish, I was getting "those" butterflies inside and started to contemplate possibly running a race this weekend...just 'cuz I can! Thinking of one of my favorite lines in Fight Club, "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything," I decided to run the Hyland 5k in Westlake on this picture perfect, sunshiny Saturday morning. After all, what did I have to lose?  With my cozy new training shoes and my old-school iPod fully charged, my focus was to let go, enjoy the beautiful morning, and simply do what I love to do so much: RUN! With this mentality, my legs were fresh, I had my pep in my step, and I crossed through the first mile in 6:00. It was definitely a fast 5k pace for me, even in my fittest form, but it just felt SO good! I lost my momentum a bit in the middle of the race, but did my best and hung on for a strong finish just under 20 in 19:56. Not a PR or where I was planning to be this spring, but it felt SO good just to be able to do it! I was elated to later learn that I managed to finish first female; it was the butter cream icing on the delicious chocolate cake!

While doing my cool down, I thought of the words I recently heard from a beautiful, enthusiastic, highly energized orthodox Jewish man who said he lives his life in such a manner simply because God doesn't want us to be sad. How inspiring?!? I firmly believe that actively choosing to be joyful, despite the odds, is doing God's will. It's not easy, in fact, it's really, really hard, but with a lot of work and a lot of faith, it is possible. Taking these past 4 weeks off has helped me get my spark back, and further reinforced my gratitude for being able to do all the things I am blessed to be able to do. I'm not sure if I'll do the CLE Half next weekend, but I may do another 5k before taking a few weeks off in June and part of July for my travels. We shall see! Just going to bet on "those" butterflies and use them as my guide, because even if things don't work out how I want them to, they never seem to let me down; nothing is impossible with God.

I didn't anticipate this turning into a blog post, but rather a quick, unpolished Instagram post. And, well, it was too here it is! :-)

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend celebrating and praising your beautiful Moms, in any which way or form you are blessed to have them with you. I am eternally grateful for both of my angels, my Mommy here on Earth and my Grandmommy watching over me in Heaven, of whom I love more dearly than my words could ever possibly express. :-)

Post 5k evening spent watching the skillz of Mentor High's future QB, aka Tommy :-)

Luke and Molly cheering on Tommy at his football game, aka eating ice cream and catching up on life. :-)

Miss Kate loving her ice cream :-)

Amen 0:-)

Recalculating: update

A little update after Recalculating

Made it in to see Dr. Cohn this morning, and he said my swollen ankle is either a sprain or a healing stress fracture. He needs to see an MRI to confirm it (which insurance may or may not cover, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to get it done). But, with how swollen it is and my history, he said not to run on it even if it doesn't hurt (mainly bc my threshold for pain isn't trustworthy, LOL!) for the next two weeks. This little peak of sunshine in the clouds warmed my heart before walking into my appointment, and put everything into perspective for me. There is nothing to be sad about it. There are plenty of marathons in the future, it's all good. 

Irish Jig and Jog 5k

Forgot to post my race recap from the Irish Jig and Jog back on March 26! Much has happened since then, but it was a memorable experience, worth blog documentation. :-) Enjoy:

Yesterday was quite the adventure! Despite feeling a bit under the weather throughout the week, I decided to run my first race of the year. I did a nice warm-up, & discovered I had ran past my Dad's childhood home! Despite feeling squeamish, my legs felt good, the energy was positive, & so I thought I was bound to have a great race.  Five minutes prior to the race start, I heard some scuffling between a cop and the race director. Twenty minutes after the race was to start, we were informed by the cop that the race director didn't complete a proper permit and so we were only allowed to run on the sidewalks, single file, had to abide by all traffic signals, & we "BETTER not violate any traffic rules." Being that it was in an old CLE neighborhood, the sidewalks were NOT suitable for racing; it was like an obstacle course! And then the temps dropped from 60 degrees down to 45 by the time the race started (no joke, I most certainly didn't see that coming!), so needless to say my legs were stale, I was under-dressed, and my squeamish belly wasn't too happy with the circumstances. Although any hopes for a decent 5k race were busted, I couldn't help but find humor in the whole situation. Not much pep was left in my step, but I felt bad for the race director (& figured it'd be a good One For The Books), felt happy vibes running in my Dad's ol' neighborhood, and so I did it anyway. It was a struggle (but I was able to avoid getting caught by traffic lights, LOL), my feet weren't too happy with me, but I did it and finished first female. Perhaps this was a reminder from above that we can prepare to do our best, but most of what happens race day (and in life) we simply can't control. But we can control our attitudes, and make the most of whatever is tossed our way. It was a funny race, all the runners were kind (not one person complained, just all compassionate for the race director), & I was able to bring home a little reminder of the event for my Dad who I dedicated this crazy, funny, surprising, hard, but GOOD race to. Just 8 weeks until the CLE Marathon, a lot of work to do in a little bit of time, but I have faith that if He brings me to it, He'll see me through it!